~~“Hey.” I say into the door entry intercom of Douglas Mackenzie’s apartment building. He answers the door buzzer with a grunt. I hear the lock click open and his amazingly Celtic tones sound a little electronic, but non the less amazing, as he says,
“Ye can come up if ye want, or wait in the car. Either way I don’t really give a flying…” he has released the button but I can imagine what the next word was anyway.
Part of me is glad he ended the communication to save my ears, the same part of me that wishes he had sounded a little more enthusiastic. The other part of me wants to hear his voice, perverted as it might sound; I love to hear him say anything, even if it is just a stream of expletives. Am I weird or just plain masochistic? Nothing, not even his obscene language can dampen my spirits today though.
I make my way to the elevator and get inside. The apartment block is a very expensive, exclusive and luxurious one, compared to my modest affair. As far as I have been able to find out, for want of being labelled a stalker, Douglas has lived here since he moved over from Scotland three years ago. I know he was head hunted by our company because of his amazing computer skills and his incredible vision and imagination when it comes to design. He was brought over here and had everything practically handed to him on a plate: a fantastic job, an amazing apartment and an incredibly lucrative contract.
I step out of the elevator and stare at the only door on this floor. He lives in a penthouse? Shit. The apartment was meant to be a stop gap until he found his own, since it belongs to one of the company execs. I’m presuming he pays rent, but it must be a fortune for a place like this. I guess he just hasn’t decided where he wants to live yet and the company are never going to kick him out of the place because the chief execs would never do anything to dislodge the guy who has singlehandedly saved their company from going under. I am very aware that I have a job because of Douglas Mackenzie.
He was a risky investment that paid off big time and the company bigwigs will do anything to keep him happy. Which is why, I presume, his very unsociable and sometimes very rude behaviour is tolerated throughout our company, because if he was called out for it there are probably a dozen other companies up in Silicon Valley that would gladly pay double to have him working for them.
He isn’t always rude and offensive. I’ve seen him work. He changes when he’s working. When he talks about work related things it’s almost as if he’s a different person. He becomes animated, passionate even. His accent is always there but he loses the angry, arrogant attitude that keeps everyone at a distance at any other time. He has this almost shy, humble aura about him, like he can’t quite believe people are listening or would even want to listen to something he has to say, and it’s as if he doesn’t even realise that they are hanging on his every word. How come I can see that and every one else thinks he is arrogant and selfish and rude?
I sigh as I walk up to his very clean and neat front door. I think people just read him wrong. He isn’t so much rude and arrogant as wary and defensive. He doesn’t have any friends as far as I’m aware. He gave me his Facebook link and he doesn’t even have a fully active account. For someone that could probably design and run his own social network he is surprisingly unaware of any of the popular social networks. He never makes an effort to talk to anyone unless it is about work. He never accepts invitations, which is why I am feeling so stoked and groovy that he has accepted mine. I really can’t work him out. He is a puzzle to me.
Everyone told me to steer clear, that I would only get burned if I go too close to the fire. I’m drawn to him though, like a moth to a flame and I can’t explain it, except that I can see something that others obviously can’t. He might appear not to want any friends, but when I asked him out on Wednesday, he seemed surprised that I would even want to try. Everyone else that has tried has given up. He managed to socially alienate everyone in his office within the first week. That has to be some sort of record, right? He doesn’t appear to care either. So why does he actually do it? Why does he act that way? And why has he accepted my invitation and no one else’s?
Suddenly he has opened the door and is standing in front of me. He is scowling so much that I’m actually afraid his face will fold in on itself. Is that even possible? The way he is frowning it certainly seems a possibility. It is also very adorable,
“You know, I am capable of finding my way from my apartment to your car, Mason,” he snips at me, his hands thrust angrily on his hips. I can’t help thinking that he is being a little unfair,
“I seem to remember you giving me the choice of waiting or coming up and saying you didn’t give a flying…” I end the sentence the way he had and he even manages to look a little embarrassed. Redheads blush so beautifully, don’t you think? “Besides I asked you out, and I’m nothing if not a gentleman. It would have been rude of me to just wait in the car.” I flash him what I think is my most charming smile and his scowl deepens as does his blush. Oh my god I am having so much fun already, because I didn’t think Douglas Mackenzie even knew how to blush,
“Are you going to stand there grinning like a Chesire Cat, or are we going to get this over with?” he asks, grumpily, although, for some reason, he is still blushing and the grumpiness seems shallow and just a front.
I step aside and allow him to exit his apartment, a little disappointed that I didn’t get a look inside; ho hum, maybe next time.
Something brushes against my leg and I realise it’s a cat; the biggest darn cat I have ever seen, with the biggest darn paws I have ever seen. Douglas exclaims angrily and bends down to pick the cat up,
“Ernie, you stupid little shit, you can’t come with us.” He sounds angry but his face has suddenly softened and all trace of that scowl has disappeared. He turns and deposits “Ernie” back into the apartment and then closes the door with a, “See you later you great jessy.” And his tone is so soft and caring and incongruous to everything I have heard about him or know about him so far.
He turns back to me and I realise I am staring at him in great surprise,
“Close your bloody mouth, Mason, you look like you’re catching flies.” My mouth closes with a snap,
“Was that a cat, or a tiger?” I ask, “Because he was huge.” To my surprise the scowl does not immediately reappear and Douglas makes a noise in the back of his throat that even sounds like it might be a chuckle,
“That was Ernie. He’s just a cat; a stupid great big fat bastard of a cat.” He says affectionately and then the scowl is back, as if he realises he has let his guard down, “Are we going?” He pulls his door shut just before Ernie can escape again. He has grabbed a jacket and pulls it on as he walks over to the elevator,
“Yeah, I’m ready when you are.” I indicate that he should get into the elevator first and follow him in.
I give him a sideways glance as we stand together in the elevator. He is wearing a pale green button down shirt over a white T shirt, and dark, dress pants. He looks nice, casual, but smart, and different from work, where he always wears a suit and tie. The green of his shirt compliments the green in his eyes and I want to tell him this but I know fine well what kind of response I will get so I bite my tongue.
He is obviously watching me more closely than I think,
“Got something on your mind?” he asks me and I glance at him quickly then glance away actually biting my lip,
“No, just that you look nice, that’s all.” I say, trying to make it sound casual, not contrived. I nervously wait for the retort, which doesn’t come and I realise he is blushing again,
“Thanks.” He says instead, “So do you.” I smile and he turns away in embarrassment,
“Thanks Doug.” I say unable to hide my pleasure at the first positive thing that has passed between us since I met him,
“Are you going to grin at me like a Chesire Cat all day, because I know it is going to get fucking annoying.” And the moment is gone.
I feel a sense of foreboding fall over me. Was this really a good idea? The thing is, when I’m with him I feel like grinning like a Chesire Cat, I can’t help it and I have no idea why. I’m just a hopeless case I guess.
When we reach my car he stands and stares. I don’t initially know what the problem is,
“This is your car?” he asks me. I can’t understand his surprise. It isn’t as if it’s an unusual one, or a really expensive one. It’s just a standard Porsche Boxster. I bought it second hand, well it’s actually fourth or fifth hand, but it’s in good condition. I love it, and I’m quite proud of it, but it’s nothing to what he can afford to drive. At first I take his surprise to mean he thought I’d have a better car, but then I realise he is looking at it with a mixture of envy and longing.
Frowning in confusion I open the passenger door for him and he climbs in, running his fingers over the paint work almost reverently. I admit I look after it but the car isn’t that special,
“What kind of car do you drive,” I ask as I climb in beside him, still watching him with surprise,
“I don’t.” he says, his expression returning to the scowl that I am beginning to think is his natural expression,
“You don’t own a car?” I ask in absolute astonishment and then realise that my reaction could be construed as rude. We do live in LA though; how the hell does he get about without a car, “How do you get to work?” I ask curiously,
“I take the bus.” He says solemnly, and he isn’t even kidding. Really, the bus? On his salary and he hasn’t even bought himself a car?
“You do drive though, right?” I ask, unable to hide my utter surprise at his method of transport for someone who must earn at least a quarter of a million dollars a year,
“I never learned.” He admits softly, and he turns to me regarding my surprised expression, “Is that a problem, Yank?”
“No.” I say, defensively, “I’m just surprised, that’s all. I guess it’s different in Scotland, but over here, every kid gets their license at sixteen and even if they don’t get a car straight away, they can at least drive their parent’s.”
“My parents never drove either.” He tells me, “I don’t even recall them ever owning a car. I don’t recall them ever having a job either, but that’s beside the point.” This last statement is delivered in a mutter, accompanied by a sardonic chuckle. I am quite surprised by this reaction to his mention of his parents and by what he has said and he seems to realise that I am, “Are you going to fucking tell me where we are actually going?” He asks quickly, in an obvious attempt to avoid any awkward questions I might ask. Damn he is so defensive and so wary. I am really going to have to tread carefully with this one,
“It’s a secret.” I explain. He just stares at me. Maybe he doesn’t like secrets.
Shit, I should have asked him where he wanted to go, maybe there’s somewhere he really likes; maybe he doesn’t like going to somewhere he doesn’t know.
Mason, you stupid ass, you just assume everyone is like you. I look at him and he couldn’t look more unhappy and uncomfortable. I decide to give him a choice so that he can call the shots,
“Unless there’s somewhere you would like to go.” He gives me a look that I can only interpret as helpless, “You must have a favourite restaurant, just name it.”
“I-I don’t.” Doug stutters: stutters? His eyes are suddenly very wide and his frown has disappeared to be replaced by that vulnerable, confused look,
“You don’t have a favourite? You mean you like them all, or that you don’t like any?” I ask him.
He looks anxious, and I don’t want him to be anxious, but then that look is replaced by that adorable frown, which I like better than the anxious look but it still isn’t what I really want to see on his face,
“I don’t know any fucking restaurants because I never go to any so why don’t you just get a fucking move on, and let’s get this over with.” He says angrily and my face must have fallen because he get’s that unsure look on his face again and stutters, yes, for the second time today he stutters, “I-I’m s-sorry, Mason, I just don’t like not knowing that’s all. You probably think that’s just fucking weird because everyone likes surprises, but I don’t.” he leaves it at that, but I can tell there is more to say, but at the same time I can tell he has already told me more than he ever wanted to tell me, or anyone for that matter. Why is he so defensive?
“If I tell you where we’re going, will that be okay?” I ask, “Because we really don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, I know I kind of cajoled you into saying yes.”
“I don’t actually recall having said the actual fucking word, Mason.” He turns to face me, his green eyes flashing, but his expression has softened a little more, “Just let’s get there, eh, before we die of fucking starvation.”
I can’t hide my grin as I push the car into drive and we pull away. For a moment there, a long, agonising moment I thought he was going to call it off. I really thought he was going to just get out of the car and walk away. If he’d done that would I have stopped him? Would I have run after him and demanded an explanation there and then as to why he was so shit scared of being with me, or with anyone? Because that’s what it is, I’m sure; he’s scared. It comes out as bristly, thorny, barbed comments that make him sound arrogant and standoffish, but deep inside he’s just scared. Scared of what, I don’t know. I want to know though.
I want to know everything about him, because he intrigues me so much: this brilliant, defiant, angry redhead with the moss green eyes and the scowl that almost folds his face in half; that tells me to, well, you know, with such vehemence but reads Jane Austin during his lunch break. He is a bundle of contradictions is Douglas Mackenzie and as I glance at him out of the corner of my eye whilst I drive, I realise I fully intend to unravel every single one of them.
First things first, though, I intend to earn his trust,
“We’re going to a place called Le Bistro.” I tell him, “It’s a French restaurant. They do a good lunchtime menu though.”
He nods in acknowledgement and then settles himself to gaze out of his side of the car as we turn onto the freeway. The sun is blazing and the air is warm, despite it being early November. I pulled the top down on my car before I left home this morning. The sky is a brilliant blue and my spirits are lifting again since Douglas no longer looks anxious or angry,
“It’s a beautiful day isn’t it?” I call above the noise of the traffic and rush of the air past our faces,
“It’s always a beautiful day here.” Douglas muses, “It never fucking rains.”
“It’s not always so bright and clear. Sometimes the smog gets in the way. And it does rain, just not very often.”
“It never fucking changes here, though; at least at home there was something happening with the weather. It gave you something to talk about, even it was fucking miserable.”
“Surely it isn’t bad all the time.” I chuckle, “I’ve seen pictures of Scotland and the sun is shining.”
“Photo-shopped crap.” Doug grumbles, “Don’t be fucking fooled, the weather is always miserable, the sky is always grey. It saps the colour from everything around you. At least here the sky has two colours even if one of ‘em’s yellow.”
I give him a confused look,
“So are you telling me you like the weather better here? Or in Scotland? Because I’m confused.” He gives me a sideways glance and there is a slightly, surprisingly wicked twinkle in his eye,
“I hate weather full stop, Mason, it’s a boring subject and I’ve never understood why people want to fucking talk about it.”
“It’s usually to fill in an awkward silence.” I explain archly, as I realise he is having a dig at my choice of subject. His mouth twitches in what I can only hope is an almost smile,
“Yeah, well, you’d better get used to them, because I’m the master of awkward silences. I never know what to fucking say.”
“You seem to be doing okay so far.” I grin at him and he scowls back, but the scowl does not seem to touch his eyes which are still twinkling,
“The day isn’t over yet,” He says, gruffly, “Stop fucking grinning at me Mason and keep your bloody eyes on the road.”
I stop grinning; instead I smirk as my eyes return to watching the road and the heavy weekend traffic. I take the exit we need and drive on down to the coast.
The rest of our drive Doug and I sit in silence but I throw quick glances his way every now and then and catch him doing the same to me. He turns away with a blush every time, but I realise as we drive that he seems just as curious about me as I am about him.
The restaurant I have picked is a beach front place, with a terrace overlooking the sea and a small marina. We pull into the nearby parking lot and we both climb out of the car, stretching our legs and smoothing down our travel crumpled clothes,
“Why does everywhere in this fucking country take fucking hours to get to?” Doug grumbles as he tosses his jacket over his shoulder,
“California is a big place, Doug, and it isn’t worth going anywhere unless you’ve driven at least an hour to get there.”
“That’s a fucking stupid attitude if ye ask me, Mason, when all you’re doing is polluting the atmosphere to take me out to lunch.”
“Oh, but Doug.” I say, unable to resist a flirt, “If there’s anyone worth polluting the atmosphere for, it’s you, Scotty Dog.”
“Bloody stop calling me that.” He prickles, but to my surprise and delight he is blushing again.
My Chesire Cat grin returns and I walk into the restaurant. A grinning Chesire Cat followed by a blushing Scotty Dog. Can this day get any better